Eight years ago, in 2011, the United Nations proclaimed July 30th as the annual International Day of Friendship. Sure, we all have friends we love—but how do we celebrate friendship in general?
First it helps to understand the inspiring idea behind International Friendship Day—that friendship between peoples, countries, cultures and individuals can inspire peace efforts and build bridges between communities. That idea has a fascinating history.
It all initially arose out of a peace proposal made by UNESCO originally taken up by the UN General Assembly in 1997. That proposal defined a “Culture of Peace” as a set of values, attitudes and behaviors that reject violence and endeavor to prevent conflicts by addressing their root causes with a view to solving problems. How, the leaders at the UN wondered, could we create and sustain a global Culture of Peace?
After much deliberation among the nations of the world, the UN reached a conclusion: that the world’s peoples, organizations and nations needed to take eight specific actions in order for a culture of peace to prevail:
- foster a culture of peace through education;
- promote sustainable economic and social development;
- promote respect for all human rights;
- ensure equality between women and men;
- foster democratic participation;
- advance understanding, tolerance and solidarity;
- support participatory communication and the free flow of information and knowledge;
- promote international peace and security.
The Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace (A/RES/53/243) adopted in 1999, specifically listed these eight goals as the path to world peace. In a striking parallel, those UN resolutions mirror the Baha’i teachings on the subject:
Baha’u’llah, the Sun of Truth, has dawned from the horizon of the Orient, flooding all regions with the light and life which will never pass away. His teachings, which embody the divine spirit of the age and are applicable to this period of maturity in the life of the human world, are:
The oneness of the world of humanity …
Religion must be the cause of unity
Religion must accord with science and reason
Independent investigation of truth
Equality between men and women
The abandoning of all prejudices among mankind
A universal language
Solution of the economic problem. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 439.
Early in the 20th century, Abdu’l-Baha listed those core Baha’i principles as “the true and outworking spirit of modernism.” – Ibid. At the end of the same century, the world’s nations agreed.
As just one of the results of that global agreement, the International Day of Friendship recognizes the relevance and importance of friendship as a noble and valuable component in the life of all humanity—just as the Baha’i teachings do:
Commit not that which defileth the limpid stream of love or destroyeth the sweet fragrance of friendship. By the righteousness of the Lord! Ye were created to show love one to another and not perversity and rancour. Take pride not in love for yourselves but in love for your fellow-creatures. Glory not in love for your country, but in love for all mankind. – Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 138.
Baha’u’llah’s teachings emphasize love and friendship among all people. Baha’is believe in, and endeavor to put into action, the spirit of friendship with everyone, no matter their age, gender, color or nationality:
The advent of the prophets and the revelation of the Holy Books is intended to create love between souls and friendship between the inhabitants of the earth. – Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i World Faith, p. 364.
What profit is there in agreeing that universal friendship is good, and talking of the solidarity of the human race as a grand ideal? Unless these thoughts are translated into the world of action, they are useless. – Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 24.
If you desire with all your heart, friendship with every race on earth, your thought, spiritual and positive, will spread; it will become the desire of others, growing stronger and stronger, until it reaches the minds of all men. – Ibid., pp. 29-30.
Be thou a summoner to love, and be thou kind to all the human race. Love thou the children of men and share in their sorrows. Be thou of those who foster peace. Offer thy friendship, be worthy of trust. Be thou a balm to every sore, be thou a medicine for every ill. Bind thou the souls together. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 26.
Therefore, associate in friendship; love one another; abandon prejudices of race; dispel forever this gloomy darkness of human ignorance, for the century of light, the Sun of Reality hath appeared. Now is the time for affiliation, and now is the period of unity and concord. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 322.
To mark today as the International Day of Friendship, the UN encourages governments, international organizations and civil society groups to hold events, activities and initiatives that contribute to the efforts of the international community towards promoting a dialogue among civilizations, solidarity, mutual understanding and reconciliation.
To build on that effort, the world’s Baha’is encourage everyone to turn dialogue into action designed to bring about friendship and unity among the entire human race.